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SC Terms as Shocking Pendency of Criminal Case Against Politician Since 1983 in Punjab

File photo of Supreme Court

File photo of Supreme Court

The Supreme Court, which has been told politicians are facing criminal trials in 4,442 cases across the nation, sought further information from all high courts on the matter.

The Supreme Court on Thursday termed as "shocking" the fact that a trial court in Punjab framed charges against a politician in a criminal case of 1983 after the lapse of 36 years and said that it was the duty of the prosecution to conduct trials expeditiously. The top court, which has been told that the politicians are facing criminal trials in 4,442 cases across the nation and out of these, sitting MPs and MLAs are undertrials in as many as 2,556 such matters, sought further information from all high courts about other pending cases against sitting and former lawmakers.

The High Courts will have to now give details through e-mails by September 12 about the other pending criminal cases against politicians under special laws such as the Prevention of Corruption Act, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and the Black Money law, said a bench headed by Justice NV Ramana said. The bench, also comprising Surya Kant and Hrishikesh Roy, will peruse the details about the pendency of cases against the former and serving MLAs and MPs and may pass directions to the Chief Justices of the High Courts about their fast-tracking on September 16.

In a hearing conducted through video-conferencing, the top court was apprised by senior advocate and amicus curiae Vijay Hansaria that there were many cases against politicians which are pending for decades in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and one of the cases from Punjab needed a special mention. The report, compiled by Hansaria in assistance with lawyer Sneha Kalita, said an offence punishable with the life term was committed in 1983 in Punjab and the charges in that case have been framed in 2019 after the lapse of 36 years.

This a shocking thing. Why this 1983 case is still pending in Punjab even today, the irked bench asked and sought the response of the counsel for the state. On being told that the information can be sought from other counsel of the state High Court, the bench said, You are a government counsel, you have to explain as to why a case is pending since 1983are you not responsible for conducting the trial expeditiously. The Punjab case was related to the murder of Dr Sudarshan Kumar Trehan in 1983. Former Shiromani Akali Dal MLA Virsa Singh Voltoha was named as accused in the confession of a co-accused.

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However, the Punjab Police delayed presenting a supplementary charge sheet and charges were framed only in 2019. The bench, meanwhile, took note of the submissions of senior advocate Vikas Singh and allowed to amend prayers in the petition and sought Centre's response on them within six weeks. He was appearing for BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, who has filed the petition to ensure speedy trial of cases involving politicians as accused.

Direct the Respondent-1 (Centre) to take appropriate steps to setup Special Courts to decide the cases related to people representative and public servants within one year and implement the important electoral reforms, proposed by the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, Law Commission of India in its 244th and 255th Report and Election Commission, said one of the amended prayers. The fresh plea has also sought a direction to the Centre to take appropriate steps to debar the person convicted for the offences specified under some provisions of the Representation of the People Act (RPA) from contesting MLA or MP election, forming a political party or becoming office bearer of political party.

The plea has also sought some changes in the RPA provisions to ensure that politicians should not get special relief such as contesting elections after the expiry of six years after conviction and sentence. That when a member of Executive/Judiciary is convicted for even a minor crime, he is debarred from his services for lifetime. But a Legislator, convicted for even heinous crimes like murder, rape, smuggling, money laundering, dacoity etc. is debarred only from contesting the election merely for six years therefore Section 8 and 9 of the RPA is against the spirit of the Article 14 and basic structure of the Constitution. Moreover, a convicted person, being behind the bar, can form his own political party or become officer bearer of the political party, Upadhyay said in his plea.

Hansaria, in the affidavit, had also provided the state-wise list of cases in which trials are stopped due to the stay orders of the superior courts and said "Trial of 352 cases have been stayed by the High Court and this Hon'ble Court." Suggesting special courts in every district for MPs/MLAs, it said, the high courts should be monitoring such cases. "Each High Court shall register a Suo Moto case with the title 'In Re:Special Courts for MPs/MLAs' to monitor the progress of cases pending in the State and ensure compliance of directions of the Court," the affidavit had suggested.